Harold II., king of the Anglo-Saxons, and the last king of that lineage, second son of Godwin, earl of Wessex, killed in battle, Oct. 14, 1066. He was a leader in the armies of Edward the Confessor, and did good service in battles with the Welsh. About 1065 he was shipwrecked on the coast of Ponthieu and made prisoner by the earl Guy, who delivered him over to William of Normandy. William detained him until he had taken an oath to support the Norman's pretensions to the English crown after the death of Edward; but when that event took place (Jan. 5, 1066), he caused himself to be proclaimed by an assembly of the thanes and the citizens of London, and was crowned in London the next day. Edward, it is asserted, had willed the succession to the duke of Normandy, but had been prevented from taking steps for the security of his testament. Harold claimed a similar testamentary right. Harold's brother Tostig, a man of great talent and activity, and filled with deadly hatred against his brother for fancied wrongs, appealed to Harold Hardrada of Norway, who promised to invade England. Tostig collected a force in Flanders, after planning operations also with William, and ravaged the southern coasts.
He was defeated afterward by the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, and retired to Scotland to await the arrival of his allies. William meanwhile sent an embassy to Harold demanding the crown of England. The new king gave a disdainful reply, and prepared to receive the invaders. His attention appears to have been directed chiefly to the side of Normandy; for the king of Norway, accompanied by Tostig, landed unopposed at Scarborough. They were met near York by the northern earls, who were defeated, and, retreating to York, were besieged in that city. A few days later Harold arrived to their relief (Sept. 25, 10GG), and a battle was fought in which the king of Norway and Tostig were killed. The Norwegians, escaping to their ships, were suffered to withdraw unmolested from the coast. Three days afterward the duke of Normandy landed at Bulverhithe, and advanced to Hastings, where on Oct. 14 the famous battle was fought by which Harold lost his life, and William became king of England. (See Hastings.)